Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Lesson in Ego Management

It feels like this happened a hundred years ago, but I can clearly remember having a conversation with Pete about the need for a full time pro to balance short term and long term career goals.  In the short term it was always important to make sure you got your hours in, won your dollars, and continued to "make a living" "plying your craft" or whatever.  For the long term, however, it was more important to make sure you were always getting better, because that was the only way to grow your earning power.  As a recreational player it didn't really matter much to Pete if he won or lost.  He didn't worry about seat changing and table changing as much as I did; if he was in a less than ideal spot, he just played it out, made some adjustments, and learned from it.  I, on the other hand, spent a lot of time and effort hopping from seat to seat and game to game always trying to put myself in a spot where I could make the most money.  This was great for the short term, but my long term development was obviously stunted.  I didn't learn how to play in tough games (or seats) as quickly as I otherwise would have.  You see examples of this all the time, players attempting to strike a balance between the short and long term, and what it often comes down to is the simple fact that you're only going to spend so many hours a week on poker.  Sure you can grind out a few more here and there (but doing so risks burnout, which is obviously not a good long term thing), or you can put in a few more by doing the things (be it playing or studying) that you enjoy more and stress you less.  But in general, there are only so many productive hours a player has in a week.  So for example right now should I spend 10 hours (or 20?  30?) learning how to play stud?  Honestly for my long term development that would probably be a great thing to do.  It would re-engage me in poker a bit, and could turn out to be super profitable.  Am I going to do that?  I doubt it.  Anyway....

Today I sort of relearned some of this stuff, but in a different light.  For the first time in probably a year or more I passed on an open 40/80 seat (in a new game) to continue playing 20/40.  Then I passed on a 60/120 seat.  Then I passed on the same 40/80 seat a second time.  And then I started a 4 handed 1/2 games with one of the biggest whales you'll ever find.  It must have looked preposterous to the other players in the room, but I'm pretty sure I did the right thing, balancing short and long term needs as best I could.  The 20/40 game I was in was absolutely amazing, and I was actually enjoying playing it.  The players were terrible, but they were FAST at being terrible, and that was just swell.  And of course I was running extremely well, and it's always fun to sit in a game you're just destroying pretty much regardless of the situation.  So by choosing to stay in the 20 game for an extra hour or so, I was achieving the long term goal of enjoying poker and not pushing the burnout button.  There was also the matter of the game being STUPENDOUS and my honest belief that I stood to win more (or at least about the same) per hour (with far lower variance) in at as in my other options.  As an aside here...holy crap was this game amazing.  I logged a bunch of 20 hours, as you all know, and I rarely ran into a horse of this color.  A friend of mine who usually plays 40 came in while I was doing this, saw how good the 20 games were, and ended up passing on the 40 himself.  He shared his experience in a text, which roughly mirrored my own;  "I think I lost one showdown all day."  And that's really what it comes down to in games like that...you just know what they have, it's like you can see their freaking cards.  Anyway, I was just cruising along playing 20/40 with the entire 40 game and half the players in the 60 wondering what on Earth I was doing.  They kept yelling over to me, asking me why I didn't play, and eventually I told them I was broke and they let it go at that.  The game slowly got worse (a few players went bust, a few went off tilt, blah blah blah) and then...the whale walked in and it was time to go.  Long term mental health and happiness be damned, I had to get my ass up and fire up the 1/2 game 4 handed with two players who are probably "better" than me (you've gotta be careful when you say stuff like that, but at a minimum they were tough opposition and neither they nor I stood to profit much, if any given the time charge, from the other).

And I got  punished.  Severely.  Before the first time pot I was buried almost $5000, which is clearly not a good development for any time frame.  But you see, here it comes again, the balancing act between the short term and the long.  In the immediate present, spraying off that much money feels awful and of course really sucks.  But in the long term, the really long term, it doesn't matter at all.  I'm past the point where that money (the actual dollars) matters.  It doesn't.  The stress of losing, the pain of it all, (and for me more often the pain of making mistakes and realizing it) matters for the long term because the body and mind can only endure and recover from so much stress so many times, but the actual act of dollars leaving my pockets?  Not gonna seem like a very big at all 6 months from now.  Today the story has a reasonably happy ending;  I got to win some pots and got out of there five hours later up a few bets (boy it felt like I should have won $10k, if I just could have dodged a few of the really nasty beats....at the same time if I don't make the five in a row in the monster pot I would have remained buried under the Earth all day).  

So what's the moral here?  I'm not exactly sure, but it's something like this.  It's hard enough to balance your short and long term goals in poker (or any other aspect of life, or even life itself) without letting your ego get in the way.  If you're in a situation you enjoy and think is helping you meet some (any) of your goals, don't let what other people think of it, or you, or your choices, affect your decision of how to proceed.  If someone you truly respects who truly understands your situation thinks you're making a mistake, then by all means hear him or her out and consider the counsel you receive.  But in all honesty the list of people who meet those two tough requirements for most of us is extremely short.  I can think of maybe three people that are sort of on it for me, but none of them really quite have the pull that would be required for me to do something drastic.  We all have to make our own decisions, we all have to balance our short and long term goals, and how we do it, how we find that balance (along with lady luck and our own natural abilities) determines the course of our lives.  It applies every where, not just poker.  It's ok to take the (relaxing) path of least resistance some of the time.  But eventually if you want to get someplace better you're going to have to walk uphill.  You just need to make sure that you're willing to spend the effort to do that, and that you do it on your own terms, and you should be just fine.

4 comments:

avoidthe9to5 said...

"For the long term, however, it was more important to make sure you were always getting better, because that was the only way to grow your earning power."

I overvalue the long term since I think it gives exponential returns on my work from the current time. Hence frequent study as my natural inclination ^_^

avoidthe9to5 said...

also, i'm extremely interested in stud if you wanna get together and discuss a couple times a week or smth over food

Chris Vitch said...

your best post ever

armor said...

Yep, awesome post!